O’so Brewing Co. is pushing to open a taproom on Madison’s east side early next year. The Plover-based operation specializes in fruity and barrel-aged sour beers. It’s feeling the squeeze of competition amid the craft beer boom, and owner Marc Buttera hopes a Madison location would bring increased exposure to the brand.
In a microcosm of the nationwide trend, a host of breweries have set up digs on Madison’s east side over the past several years, including One Barrel, Next Door, BarleyPop, Working Draft and Giant Jones. O’so’s taproom would occupy a retail space at the ground level of The Marling Apartments on East Washington Avenue.
Opening shop on such a busy thoroughfare makes a lot of business sense to Buttera. He outlined his plan during a Sept. 20 neighborhood meeting hosted by District 6 Alder Marsha Rummel in the basement of Trinity Lutheran Church on Winnebago Street. Buttera explained that O’so was one of about 2,200 independent breweries nationwide when it opened in 2007. That number has roughly tripled in the decade-plus since, causing O’so’s number of distributors in Wisconsin to dwindle from 75 to 30.
“That means for breweries, as far as brand-building, it’s noisier than it’s ever been,” he said.
It’s been difficult for O’so to stand out, especially since it’s headquartered in a town with a population of about 12,500. “When we found the space on East Wash, we felt it was a great fit,” Buttera said. “The amount of traffic that will see our name everyday is big for us.”
Some residents of the surrounding neighborhood aren’t so excited, however. They’ve witnessed the historically working-class area’s rapid gentrification, and lament the increased traffic, noise and number of drinking establishments.
“We have a lot of alcohol already,” one neighbor said. “I kind of feel like we’re saturated.”
In terms of sound abatement, Buttera anticipates low-key clientele — people meeting up to chat over specialty beers and board games, not rowdy football fans (the space won’t have TVs). And he doesn’t expect parking to be an issue, as he hopes the taproom attracts people walking and riding their bikes. The 1,300-square-foot tasting room would have outdoor seating and an overhead door.
He promised O’so will operate with its immediate community in mind. “All I can say is that we’ll make you proud,” he said.
The proposal will be considered by the Madison Plan Commission on Oct. 15. If approved, O’so’s taproom in Madison will open for business in late January.